BBC launches season asking: Why Democracy?
The Why Democracy? season is a huge multimedia event – exploring the state of democracy in the world today – with the BBC at its heart.
Beginning in October, the season will run globally on TV, radio and online, on over 40 broadcasters, in over 200 countries and territories – a potential audience of 300 million people.
In the UK, BBC Two, BBC Four, BBC World, BBC Parliament, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service will all run programming dedicated to the idea of democracy.
Central to the season are ten documentaries, made by filmmakers from around the world, taking a wide-ranging and in-depth look at the nature of democracy. Subjects include US torture in Afghanistan, the election of a class monitor in a Chinese primary school, Che Guevara and the Danish cartoons controversy.
Why Democracy? has teamed up with Metro Newspapers worldwide, and The Observer in the UK, to ask national leaders, celebrities and everyday people to answer ten questions about democracy. Their answers will appear online, in the press and in a series of short films. The same questions will be part of a global opinion poll.
And people all over the world can join in the discussion on the web. A global film premiere on MySpace.com will launch the online debate. whydemocracy.net will host discussion forums, chat rooms, educational resources and interviews with key figures who have had a direct hand in shaping democracy.
The ten films in the season are:
Please Vote For Me
Weijun Chen's comic but profound film charts the election of the class monitor in a Chinese school. At first all goes well, but soon the manipulation and dirty tricks start, posing the question of whether democracy could ever exist without them.
Looking For The Revolution
Rodrigo Vazquez travels to Bolivia to see whether the idea of a revolution started by Che Guevara 40 years ago is still alive today. Evo Morales seems to be trying to keep revolution on the agenda, but others wonder whether it can ever actually happen.
Taxi To The Dark Side
Dilawar, a young Afghani taxi driver, was arrested and tortured to death by United States forces in Bagram. Oscar-nominated director Alex Gibney provides a forensic account of how such abuses became possible, and finds a trail leading to the door of the White House.
Dinner With The President
President Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan is, for a while at least, very much a dictatorship. Director Sabiha Sumar discusses Musharraf's rule with him (and curiously his mother) over dinner. Sabiha then goes on the road around Pakistan to see whether his nation agrees with him.
Village Of Fools
Dictatorship of a rather different kind is evident in Durakovo, Russia, where Mikhail Morozov has created a community that follows his every word. His ideals are for God, Tsar and Fatherland – harking back to the days before Perestroika. Nino Kirtadze spent months seeing whether it could work.
Iron Ladies Of Liberia
At the other end of the spectrum, Liberia is revelling in a rejuvenated democracy, led by the indomitable Ellen Sirleaf Johnson. Daniel Junge and co-director Siatta Scott-Johnson spent a year with President Sirleaf as she and her coterie of ladies battle to rebuild a shattered country.
Egypt: We Are Watching You
Democracy is nothing without fair elections and Egypt's record of controlling votes is universally criticised. Three women who founded Shayfeen.com started to do something about it. Leila Menjou followed them as they risked life and livelihood for democracy.
Life and livelihood were at stake when a small Danish newspaper chose to print a selection of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Karsten Kjaer looks at the events that followed and travels the world to question the protesters and explore their motivations. Could the Muhammad cartoons have affected the future of free speech?
Campaign! The Kawasaki Candidate
Of course democracy is no good at all if you don't have the right people to elect. This film suggests that sometimes anyone can make it into positions of power. Kazuhiro Soda went on the campaign trail with a candidate critically short on knowledge, skills or charisma. When he fails to even turn up at the count, one begins to wonder whether it's all worth it.
The Ministry Of Truth
For those that are elected their job is to represent the people. Richard Symons noticed that the people in the UK can't always rely on their politicians to tell them the truth. But what if it was illegal for politicians to lie?